Give me water: Mary Ekai’s last words before bandits killed her in Turkana

Mary Ekai Kanyaman

Peace crusader Mary Ekai Kanyaman. She was killed by bandits in Turkana East on September 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

"I am dying as a result of excessive thirst. Give me water please," reads a screenshot of a WhatsApp text message from a peace crusader Mary Ekai Kanyaman sent at 1.44 pm on Saturday.

Another message from her was in the wee hours of the morning: "Help us, help us. Kamuge, Ngilukia help us...Riet village has been attacked, please help us, come to our rescue."

Ms Kanyaman, who was a former Samburu County Health Executive, had on Saturday morning managed to mobilize security officers from Lokori to recover her livestock that had been stolen by bandits from the neighbouring Pokot community during a Saturday's 2 am raid that left one person dead and another injured.

According to Turkana Police Commander Samuel Ndanyi, the peace crusader was in the company of a patrol team comprising General Service Unit officers, police reservists and general duty personnel that had left that morning to pursue bandits who attacked Ngikengoi village in Elelea sub-location, Katilia ward.

“They were ambushed by the bandits at Namariat near Kakiteitei village in Kapedo/Napeitom Ward. At the scene, seven GSU officers and a driver from police officers were shot dead," Mr Ndanyi said.

Turkana Banditry attack

A police officer who was among the three injured victims of Turkana East banditry attack at Lodwar County and Referral Hospital, HDU section on September 25, 2022..

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

"A motor vehicle that was ferrying peace crusaders from Lokori to Kamuge village got into the scene of the ambush. As a result, Napeitom Senior Chief Gilbert Lomukuny and a peace crusader Mary Kanyaman, who is also Director of Golden Valley Cooperative were also shot dead by the bandits," he added.

At Lodwar County and Referral Hospital, Chief Executive Officer Dr Joseph Epem confirmed that three people including two police officers with gunshot injuries were admitted to the facility.  

Dr Epem said that one patient, a 37-year-old male who was critically injured was stabilised and admitted to the High Dependence Unit.

"He is currently in a stable condition and ready for evacuation because he requires a review by a cardiothoracic surgeon whom we don't have at this facility. The other two had minor injuries," he said.

A local, Mr Philemon Ekaale eulogised Ms Kanyaman as the Voice of Suguta Valley who will be in residents of Turkana's hearts forever. 

Dr Joseph Epem

Lodwar County and Referral Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr Joseph Epem addressing journalists at the facility on September 25, 2022. Three survivors of a bandit attack in Turkana East Sub County are admitted to the facility.  

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

"She fought for peace along the Kapedo-Suguta belt and died for championing peace and justice. Education, community land and peace are the main agenda she was championing. No one will ever fit her shoes," Mr Ekaale said.

He reiterated that Ms Kanyaman decided to mobilise security personnel to recover stolen livestock. She led the convoy because she understood the terrain and how bandits operated in Suguta valley.

A police chopper that landed at Lodwar Airstrip on Saturday morning to refuel did not evacuate the critically ill patients. Sources say it was destined for Turkana East to pick up the bodies that were still lying at the scene of the shooting. 

Leaders from Turkana County led by Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai and Senator James Lomenen condemned the shooting and called on national security agencies to immediately respond and end the cold-blooded murders.

Lodwar County and Referral Hospital

A Kenya Red Cross ambulance at Lodwar County and Referral Hospital where three survivors of a bandit attack were admitted on September 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Governor Lomorukai said that Turkana residents are tired of losing their family members to banditry. He said that the perpetrators of the arson attack that left seven people dead at Napeitom village on July 31, 2022, were yet to be brought to book.

"The criminals were never pursued and survivors and relatives of those killed have not received justice. How many more innocent people and police officers have to die before the government responds by going after financiers and beneficiaries of the attacks," he stated.

In the past year, there have been similar attacks that have forced residents living near the border of Turkana and Baringo counties to flee from their homes. 

The governor said that to end the state of lawlessness, an operation to mop up illicit firearms in regions neighbouring Turkana East and Turkana South sub-counties should be launched.   

 Mary Ekai.

Peace crusader Mary Ekai.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

"I appeal to President William Ruto to deliver on his promise to return national police reservists who were critical in boosting peace and security," Mr Lomorukai said.

Mr Lomenen said that police uniforms, firearms and ammunition taken from the fallen soldiers must be recovered before the bandits use them to unleash terror on more locals and police officers.

"The bandits must be arrested and made to face the consequences. The (stolen) livestock should be recovered, and families of those killed and injured must be compensated," the senator said.